Monday, May 23, 2016

Today's laugh, courtesy of the New York Times Book Review

I'm doing my third GoodReads Reading Challenge in as many years, and I've developed a habit of writing sarcastic one-line reviews of the (sadly, many) books I've read that don't keep me adequately amused.

Many times this is not the fault of the books themselves; it's the fault of my incredible levels of experience and sophistication. I mean, when you've read Romeo and Juliet and seen West Side Story, you don't need to be a genius to sense that things won't end well for the young protagonists of The Fault in Our Stars.

Anyway, having spent the last week plowing through Little Dorrit and The Winthrop Woman, I thought--hey, maybe The New York Times Book Review will have a useful suggestion of what to read next. Maybe something lighter. Maybe something SHORTER.

And lo, the Best Seller lists are full of one-sentence reviews. Here I was thinking I was being original and fresh. Guess not.

And have you noticed how many sub-categories of literature appear in the Best Sellers lists? It used to be fiction and non-fiction; hard cover and soft cover. Now there are Graphic Novels, Politics and American History, and my new favorite: Fashion, Manners and Customs.

So guess what the Number 2 Best Seller on the Fashion, Manners and Customs list is?

Pretty Happy by Kate Hudson.

And this is how the NYT one-sentence-reviews the book:

The actress recommends eating well and exercising. 

Which cracked me up, because it's obvious the reviewer didn't find these ideas particularly

In fact, I get the feeling the reader wanted to say something more like

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

eBates and Low-buys and Hauls, oh my!

Hi internet! Hope you're well and enjoyed yourself on Mother's Day. I'm actually not a huge fan of Mother's Day. Either I'm feeling guilty or I'm making someone else feel guilty. Bah, humbug, say I.

I've come up with three ways to celebrate Mother's Day that don't involve getting dressed up or eating brunch. Two of these are sushi and superhero movies, so maybe you're not interested. The third is shopping for frivolous items that I can pretend are presents from a strangely girly and extravagant set of children.

I mean, yes, I would have loved it if my kids had noticed that I'm running dangerously low on Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia eau de parfum and decided to replenish my supply. That would have been thoughtful. But it's not going to happen while they're unemployed full-time students whose distance from home precludes taking regular inventories of my perfume stash.

So, yeah. I buy myself Mother's Day presents. But this is not mere extravagance; this is shopping as a form of sport. My so-called "smart shopper" characteristics rise to the fore as I figure out how to get a great deal on the presents I'm buying for myself.

This year I discovered that because it's their anniversary, eBates is offering massive rebates this week--I'm talking 15 percent. And Neiman Marcus is offering gift cards with purchases, so I was angling for one of those, too. Also, I discovered that eBates is offering a $50 rebate with a $250 Neiman Marcus purchase--not sure about that one, but fingers and toes crossed that I scored that as well.

Math? Sure. A $250 purchase would net a $67 eBates check, a $50 NM gift card and possibly an additional $50 eBates rebate.

What did I buy? Mostly, I got skincare.

I got a Chantecaille retinol night creme.

Chantecaille Retinol Intense +

 I've tried the prescription-only product and didn't react well to it, so I thought I'd restart my Retinol Journey™ with a product that pinky swears it's gentle. 

Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst

I also got a jar of Clinique Moisture Surge, which I discovered (N.B. marketing people at Clinique) through a sample. You know that feeling when you spritz yourself with Evian in a can? This creme is like that feeling made three dimensional. Honestly, it's like water-in-a-can-in-a-jar.

I've also been using this Estee Lauder Essence after cleansing, before moisturizing. Again, from a sample. (Who knew samples made you buy shit?) I like it and have gone through about half my little bottle.

Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion, 150 mL

This product is Estee Lauder trying to embrace Asian skincare. In fact, I believe they started by marketing it only in Asia. I'm not sure whether this product contains sufficient amounts of miraculous skin care ingredients, but I'm all about the hydration these days, and like adding a layer of moisture under my moisturizer.

Clinique Lid Smoothie Eye Shadow

I also picked out a creme eyeshadow. I'm experimenting with makeup minimalism (BWAHAHAHA no really) and my latest eye look is using my finger to apply the lid shade from Wet n Wild's Walking on Eggshells trio just to the lid. I thought it might be nice to get a similar product in a tube, for ease of transport. So I got this.

Plus it has anti-oxidants!!!

Come to think of it, I suppose it's meet and right that I bought this stuff for myself. If the climax of my family's celebration had been "Happy Mother's Day--here's something for your wrinkles!" things wouldn't have gone particularly well.

(GWPs and free samples were also involved, but I'll spare you.)

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Eyeing ... not buying

I've spent the past few weeks on visits to the East Coast where I've been with my family. I don't want to point any accusing fingers, but good lord, what a bunch of blathermouths. They have talked me into a pulp. Because of the spongey state of my mentality, I have no words left for you, my invisible internet friends. In my free time, I listen to audiobooks (because it's not a solecism if I doze off or miss a few sentences while listening to prerecorded material) or look at stuff on the internet. Stuff that I'm not going to buy.

In the off-chance that you're interested, these are the things I'm ogling these days.

Let's start with the most ridiculous. I am not a bride. At my time of life, the last thing I need is more plates. And yet, I have been in love with Herend's Chinese Flowers pattern for ages. And for only $1,200 or so, these could be mine.

Yeah, that's not going to happen.

Next we have another luxury good (because when you're not going to buy stuff, why pinch pennies?) This is a variation on my favorite all-time Hermes scarf pattern, Hubert Watrigant's "Carnaval de Venise." (Scarf heads: for more pictures and fun facts about this design, click here.)

This version is enlarged to become a massive silk/cashmere shawl, so a border of Venetian masks is added to the basic design. I love it, even though I don't really understand these shawls ... I mean, why you would want to swathe yourself in that much pattern, and doesn't it get hot? Plus the prints are never as crisp and refined looking as they are on silk ... still, I ogle it.

And it could be mine for about $1,500.

This is where we really start to get silly. I like brown. I look better in brown than black. And yet, I own way more black than brown clothing because clothing manufacturers don't want me to be happy. And I won't even discuss how difficult it is to find a pair of brown dress shoes. Even Ferragamo, the most conservative shoe designer EVER can't be bothered to make chocolate brown shoes.

So I have a beautiful pair of chocolate brown pumps that Stuart Weitzman condescended to manufacture a year or two ago. And this bag would look amazing with them.

I may even have emitted a small yelp when I realized that it really is brown, and not just a crappy washed out photograph of a black bag. Still ... not going to happen.

Then there's my sister-in-law's tiara.

I'm pretty sure she'd lend it to me, should I ever feel the need.

Finally, there's the Alice Through the Looking Glass palette from Urban Decay.

In 2010, when Urban Decay's original Alice in Wonderland palette came out, I visited Sephora twice in two days to get one. The first day they hadn't unpacked them yet. The next day, the palettes were already sold out. Color me disappointed (with glitter fallout on my cheeks.)

Then I saw the movie and thought it was so terrible that I'm glad Tim Burton and Disney and Johnny Depp and all the rest of them didn't get a single additional penny from me. So I'm boycotting it, even though its dumb bulky cardboard packaging appeals to my inner Urban Decay traditionalist (if that isn't an oxymoron.)

Monday, April 25, 2016

I got a fever! And the only prescription.. is more purple! Or, what I wore to a screening of Purple Rain

This week's cover of The New Yorker

On Sunday, a group of friends was going to watch Purple Rain on the big screen. I don't think I'd seen it since it came out. I wasn't a kid--I was working full time and mostly expressed my Inner Eighties Kid with things like a cobalt blue wool overcoat (does anyone else remember how huge cobalt blue was in the 80s?) or a magenta and black houndstooth scarf with my boring gray tropical weight Brooks Brothers suit.

I can't remember if I dressed for the occasion. I hope I at least wore my burgundy leather jacket to the screening. But if I remember correctly, I went after work. So it was probably a suit.

At any rate, here we are, 32 years later (!) and it's my second trip to a movie theater to watch Purple Rain. Unfortunately, my purple clothes—and I do own quite a few—are mostly a winter phenomenon. Yesterday, for whatever dumb reasons the weather guys on TV would like to bore me about, it was 80 degrees. I really had to scrounge to find anything purple. I wore

with black ballerina flats. I carried

and accessorized the SHIT out of it with

My makeup included a couple of shades of violet eyeshadow I don't usually indulge myself with, a plummier-than-usual blush, and this TRANSCENDENT lipgloss.

MAC dazzle glass in Boys Go Crazy

which I really have no business owning. But I think His Purpleness would have approved.

Let's Go Crazy and have another shot of Boys Go Crazy!

I told my friends that it was a limited edition shade, but I was wrong! It's still available! RUN DON'T WALK as they say on a different blog.

Of course, I was completely outclassed by one woman in my group. She was rocking a

1) dark purple
2) lace

sleeveless blouse with

3) ruffles

that she got at a thrift shop for

4) one dollar.

But I like to think I came in second.

Purple Rain was amazing. Again. And Prince was amazing. Always.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Very resistible

Wow, the internet is totally overflowing with stuff I don't want!

For starters, how about that Marimekko collaboration with Target? I totally had my hopes up with that one. My stepmother was the opposite of the boring, G&T-drinking tennis-playing people I grew up with. She owned an art gallery and a crazy gift shop where she sold cool mid-century modern stuff, and she wore tons of Marimekko.

But there was no poppy print.

And the colors were either drab

or weirdly loud and all over the place.


People appear to have forgotten the Evil Side of the 1970s. But now this collection is giving us post-traumatic flashbacks.

Next, we have Urban Decay and their misguided attempt to color the world Naked. Here's a clue for you, Urban Decay: everyone else in the world already has all the Naked (nude, starkers, bare, raw, unclothed and disrobed) makeup they need.

Stop me if you've heard the one about the lady from New York who moves to Boston. She asked one of her new acquaintances, "Where do Bostonian ladies buy their hats?" And the new acquaintance replied. "Bostonian ladies have their hats."

Exactly. Everyone HAS their Naked palettes. Even I have two of the goddamned things. But the Urban Decay Naked Vault keeps wafting back into stores. Who could possibly be said to need even one Naked palette at this point, let alone all six?

All the Naked eyeshadow palettes you could ever want, and then some. $180 at Ulta.

Wow, it's lucky I'm not trying to sell ads on my blog, because seriously, what idiot would place an ad with me? Where's my consumerism? What's wrong with me? THIS IS AMURRICA!

OK, I'll lighten up.

I don't want to buy them, but this, from the Gap website, is mesmerizing.

Also, have you seen this adorable video for The Body Shop's new English Rose line?

They're selling it in the States. Maybe I'll buy some. There. I hope you're satisfied.

p.s. The Body Shop is offering a promo code: 42.0% off your purchase with Code HAPPY420.

p.p.s. Happy Mother's Day to you, your Majesty.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Korean Skin Care for the Middle-Aged: Cleansing, Step One

I've mentioned before that the idea of switching to a Korean skin care regimen is a bit overwhelming. I'm using "overwhelming" in the understated, stiff-upper-lip New England WASP sense of (choose one)

  1. Anxiety-producing
  2. Overly-complicated
  3. May I please just stick my face in the sand like an ostrich instead of spending weeks trying to master this stuff?
  4. Is this going to be on the exam?
  5. All of the above

To cut down on the free-floating anxiety, I've suggested switching to a Korean style cleansing routine as a great way to sneak up on the subject. After all, cleansing is pretty simple. Everyone cleans their face. And switching to a Korean cleansing routine is a hell of a lot easier than embarking on the whole shebang: a nightly skin care routine that involves several layers of products and takes 45 minutes.

Double cleansing

Asian cleansing, by contrast, only takes two steps: an oil-based cleanser followed by a water-based cleanser. The oil-based cleanser breaks down makeup and sunscreen and rinses it away; the water-based cleanser removes every last trace of old makeup, sunscreen, soil, and excess sebum.

So what makes Asian cleansing different from Western cleansing? The answer is: not that much. That is, if you remember the way your grandmother cleaned her face.

These videos give a picture into the skincare advice women were getting in the middle of the last century. They were double-cleansing, they just didn't call it that. It's kind of like the guy in the Molière play who discovered he'd been speaking prose his whole life.

I'm not saying that their routines are the same as what's going on nowadays—Korean women would faint dead away at the idea of washing their faces with soap—but the principle remains the same: use oil to remove the makeup, then remove the makeup remover.

And notice how the ladies in the videos have their hair protected with special turbans? Well, Asian skin care also includes special head gear.

Etude House My Beauty Lovely Etti Hair Band, image courtesy of Jolse Beauty Blog

See how we're really all the same? All looking idiotic in our eternal quest for beauty? Isn't it heartwarming?


About Double Cleansing

Here's a dirty little secret you won't hear if you read Asian beauty blogs. You can use Western skin care products to double-cleanse your skin.

Well, of course you can. Look at the amount of cold cream that is being lavished onto the women's faces in those videos. It's off the charts. It makes me want to run screaming from the room.

I suppose you could use cold cream. If you want. In the past, I've used Pond's, Albolene, Caswell Massey Cucumber, and even Jergen's incredibly retro-looking All-Purpose Cream. But as I've mentioned before, the general ookiness of the cream and all those greasy tissues get pretty unpleasant.

And you don't have to do that anymore. Asian oil cleansers are far more elegant and easy to use. You use a pump or two on dry skin, massage it into your face to dissolve the makeup and sunscreen, add a little water, massage some more, and then rinse it all off. The oil emulsifies with the water and rinses cleanly off. I bought my first bottle of oil cleanser at a Japanese supermarket, but nowadays, companies like DHC and SKII are readily available at Sephora and Nordstrom.

On top of that, you can get Asian-style cleansing oils very inexpensively from American manufacturers like Neutrogena, Burt's Bees, Philosophy, Clinique, Julep, Bareminerals, Whish, and Juice Beauty, as well as European manufacturers like The Body Shop, Boot's, and Lancôme.

I'm saving the best for last

Double cleansing takes time, but it's worth it. I have dry, aging skin, and acne has never been a concern. And yet, I've started double-cleansing every night, without fail.

This is because even when I haven't been wearing makeup, I'm certain to be wearing some kind of SPF-containing sunscreen. And in my experience, the higher the SPF, the more pore-clogging that stuff gets.

Don't even get me started on waterproof sunscreens and what they do to my pores. I'm pretty sure they are the guilty party with the milia I was complaining about not too long ago. But double cleansing and stepped up exfoliation took care of the problem. No more using a facial wipe or some micellar water on a cotton pad and then falling into bed for me. It feels weird to say this, but in this way, at least (mind you, I'm not talking about the crinkles around my eyes, etc.,) I'm enjoying the best skin of my life.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

My mockery will save you money! A public service announcement.

Hey Internet--did you miss me? I missed you!

I'm back from a few days in Washington DC where I was attending some extremely sumptuous events at venues where, if they really knew what I was like, they'd never let me through the front door. Then I came back to Chicago, where I celebrated the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Joffrey Ballet.

My new grayish greenish Downton Abbey dress came into play twice ... once in DC and once in Chicago, and shhhh, let this be our secret, Internet, but I just hung it up and aired it between wearings. It's almost as if I lived during the Downton Abbey time period, where I'm pretty sure people smelled a lot worse then we do now.

Oh, and by the way--on my way to Dupont Circle, I noticed that my dress was the exact same shade as the upholstery in my Uber driver's Toyota. So if I ever want to describe the shade exactly, I can find out the name for the greeny-gray upholstery in a Toyota Camry, and Bob's your uncle.

Anyway. The public service I want to perform is this. Remember when I was mocking the Bobbi Brown lip color palette?

Well, it's currently on sale at Nordstrom. It's only marked down ten percent, from $220 to $198, but I like to take credit for it anyway.

Even if you're not interested in the Bobbi Brown lip palette, you might be tempted by the other stuff Nordstrom marked down. There are pages of beauty and fragrance products in their sale section, all a foolish attempt to disguise the fact that my blog has put the fear of God in them. I make fun of a product they're selling, and they put it on sale. Coincidence? I don't think so. Sure, they bulk up the proceedings with a boatload of products that I haven't mocked, but my point holds. I am the boss of Nordstrom, and they tremble in fear at my frown. I see through your bravado, Nordstrom, and you don't fool me.

Still, Internet, you might want to check out Nordstrom's 10 percent discount on lots of beauty loot

as well as their Estee Lauder GWP with the cute Harper's Bazaar makeup bag.

I mean, yes, here in Chicago, where the sales tax is 10 percent, this discount amounts to chump change. Still, in a Nordstrom-free zone, with no state and city sales taxes, and with eBates offering a bit more off, this could be worth a look.

After all, Mother's Day is coming!